Tel Aviv Diary December 22, 2002 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

a moment of literary theory. When Dickens published his novels in serial chapters in magazines he got feedback immediately after each publication that influenced the next chapter. It didn't change his plans most of the time - but the fact that people wrote him pleading for him not to kill off little nell - is an important influence.

With no pretensions to the level of Dickens, i find this idea of an online, sometimes permeable, journal an amazing learning experience for me. Maybe it's innovative, maybe its just an extension of the old epistolary genre, but it is certainly keeping me (somewhat) alert -

Although I've stopped living the rest of my life...

December 23, 2002

Remember, I don't promise all the news that's fit to print. all I promise is a few comments and notes. Yesterday a couple in the Arab village of Tira were beat up and sent to the hospital because they had made a porno movie in Israel. The problem with the movie seems to have been that the cover showed the couple with a minaret in the background. This disgraced Islam. The couple were spotted simultaneously by a number of people in Tira and they formed a crowd which beat them up apparently very badly before someone called the authorities and they were rescued to the hospital. Now this raises the question: how were the couple identified - unless the residents saw the movie? I understand the other part - about the porno bothering them less than the minaret. But so many people in Tira watching porno?

We are girding our loins in anticipation of the U.S. war with Iraq. I hear from friends that they will be abroad for the war. But that means missing the elections - and i find the thought upsetting. On the other hand how can i ask all my step-children to return here for elections if we are anticipating anthrax.

More painful - the new budget has been passed by parliament, and some of the cuts are devastating - particularly the cuts in the culture monies. As it is the arts have been stripped bare - the writers' house i've written about in these pages have been further destroyed, the theatre is dwindling.... I worry about the lack of culture and entertainment but much more about the fact that we are not building something basic - Israeli culture. It is a gap that will be felt in generations to come. Even if a person never reads a book (s)he is influenced by the fact that her/his culture is literary or not.

But I don't know what to do about this - except complain about it when i get on tv every few weeks. any ideas?

December 24, 2002

The incessant rain depresses every one - and the air is full of the fear of attack from Iraq, and the cooperative terrorist attack of the Palestinians with Saddam. A dirty bomb in Tel Aviv. A mega-terror attack was foiled today - most all the attacks have been foiled lately - but they are incessant.

Sharon has been accused of using the fear, hyping it up, to increase the support for him. He answers the accusations quietly, and with dignity - in compliance with the grandfatherly image the PR people are trying to promote. Who can be believed? What do these months have in store for us?

Many of my friends are planning long trips - certainly the ones with little children fear staying here and coaxing squirming toddlers into gas-tents. We'll talk after the war, some of them are saying - like we'll talk after you've finished your chemo...

We finished our shiva today and went to the cemetery - I won't try to describe the wet earth and the fresh grave. But I was glad she is not here in the midst of all this panic and uncertainty. She deserved a better future than today.

December 25, 2002 - Christmas Day.

How we used to spend our Christmas Eve at Midnight Mass in Jaffa. I wonder if anyone but the faithful does that any more - me, I miss it - There are hundred of thousands of people who celebrate Christmas is Israel - not just the Christian Arabs, but also the Russians. Even my cousin from Warsaw who moved to Dix Hills in the '60's had a Christmas tree - and probably still has one. I passed an ornment store the other day on King George Street - while I was escaping the shiva for a few minutes - it was dedicated to Christmas trees, nothing else. So there must be customers here. But when Barbara asked me where she could take a visitor here to celebrate chistmas last night i couldn't think of any of the old places. Times have changed, to coin a phrase.

The difference between the way the Americans view the war on Iraq and the Israelis struck me today when a few friends wrote about their antiwar activities. Friends from the old days of Viet Nam protests. They are back doing the same thing - and me - who will get it straight in the kisser - i can't figure it out. Bush appears to be a straightforward capitalist, in it for the money - but Saddam does have weapons and plans to destroy me and a lot of others...

And what are you going to do for the war? Are you going to leave - spend your vacation aborad until it is over? I'm afraid I'm rooted to the earth here. No going anywhere for me. I'll be sipping my rationed bottled water in the shelter, looking carefully at the dog to see if she shows signs of poisoning, and cursing the fact that the batteries on the radio are going. just like old times. gotta get out my sweat suit for the war.

December 26, 2002

I've been resisting seeing Edna Mazia's play, "The Rebels," because I thought it would be a standard retelling of the history of Israel - most plots about individuals lately seem to have been twisted into historical stereotypical tales that fit either an old-fashioned histroy book, or a revised version of history. But last night when i saw her play I realized it was the other way around - it was saying that there were real people in these histories, and major events were determined by personal stories. AND we have only begun to learn this history and these stories - so we should forgive everyone and shut up and learn. That was my interpretation of the play, anyway. And in this sense I recommend it. It's in the new Cameri building - and except for a brief descent into stereotypical african kitsch it is really impressive.

When I got home I managed to catch the interview with Jane Fonda and Eve Eslin on TV - they were talking about the same thing I think i was seeing in Mazia's play - learning to see everyone's side at once - and proceeding from there to learning how to make peace. Okay - they were more simplistic about it. But they too were great women who are trying to change the way we see things...

I'd like to do something of that too.

But for now I'm off for a weekend at the Dead Sea - maybe to clean out my mind. See you in two days.

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